The Popular Arts: a Strategy for Dementia

30th November 2012 by Judith Harvey

With a few lines on a piece of paper Hans Holbein created pictures which, 500 years later, still convey the characters of living people. I wouldn’t have dreamed that it was possible to achieve that with a sewing machine. But Georgie Meadows can do it. The inspiration for her Stitched Drawings comes from her work as an OT with elderly people with dementia. She says she doesn’t feel she has total control over a picture. It’s a bit like dementia: a sewn line shows a forlorn old man’s sagging shoulders; loose threads illustrate the disordered hair of an old lady; another elderly lady struggles to get a pair of trousers up her husband’s spindly legs.

Most of us fear dementia, for our families and friends, and for ourselves. As doctors, many of us find patients with dementia difficult – they are hard to communicate with, hard to warm to, hard to help. But even if we escape the shadow of dementia in our personal lives, it is our job and will be an increasing burden to our ageing society.

It is difficult enough to remember that people with dementia still have something to offer us, the able-brained, let alone to know how to reach it. So much of modern everyday life calls for the capabilities which dementia takes away, and most of us are better at helping people with worn-out knees than worn-out brains.

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